University of Wisconsin–Madison

Reid Alisch


Assistant Professor

Our lab determines the contributions of DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation to neurodevelopmental and aging processes, and how those processes are disrupted by disease (e.g., neurodevelopmental [autism, anxiety, and schizophrenia] and neurodegenerative [Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease]). These disorders became my lab’s focus because family, twin, and epidemiological studies suggest polygenetic and epistatic susceptibility models involving the interaction of many genes; however, the etiology of these disorders is complex and further includes both epigenetic and environmental factors. Defining the molecular signatures of brain disorders is critical at this time because there is substantial need to identify and characterize the neuro-molecular substrates contributing to their onset and progression. Our approach employs an interdisciplinary combination of multi-omic and translational strategies to identify the molecular mechanisms affecting human behavior and cognition. Moreover, despite the tissue specificity of DNA methylation modifications, peripheral blood-based epigenetic biomarkers demonstrate substantial potential in fields of medical research and diagnosis, including brain-related disorders. Identifying robust DNA methylation biomarkers of brain disorders in peripheral blood overcomes many of the limitations of brain sample investigations and provides a pragmatic, translational opportunity to improve risk assessment and guide personalized treatment of brain disorders.


Alisch, Reid